"Fu rinchiuso in una torre grossa e larga; avea libri assai, suo Tito Livio, sue storie di Roma, la Bibbia." &c. - "Vita di Cola di Rienzi", lib.
"He was immured in a high and spacious tower; he had books enough, his Titus Livius, his histories of Rome, the Bible," &c.
Chapter 7.I. Avignon. - The Two Pages. - The Stranger Beauty.
There is this difference between the Drama of Shakspeare, and that of almost every other master of the same art; that in the first, the catastrophe is rarely produced by one single cause - one simple and continuous chain of events. Various and complicated agencies work out the final end. Unfettered by the rules of time and place, each time, each place depicted, presents us with its appropriate change of action, or of actors. Sometimes the interest seems to halt, to turn aside, to bring us unawares upon objects hitherto unnoticed, or upon qualities of the characters hitherto hinted at, not developed. But, in reality, the pause in the action is but to collect, to gather up, and to grasp, all the varieties of circumstance that conduce to the Great Result: and the art of fiction is only deserted for the fidelity of history. Whoever seeks to place before the world the true representation of a man's life and times, and, enlarging the Dramatic into the Epic, extends his narrative over the vicissitudes of years, will find himself unconsciously, in this, the imitator of Shakspeare. New characters, each conducive to the end - new scenes, each leading to the last, rise before him as he proceeds, sometimes seeming to the reader to delay, even while they advance, the dread catastrophe. The sacrificial procession sweeps along, swelled by new comers, losing many that first joined it; before, at last, the same as a whole, but differing in its components, the crowd reach the fated bourn of the Altar and the Victim!
It is five years after the date of the events I have recorded, and my story conveys us to the Papal Court at Avignon - that tranquil seat of power, to which the successors of St. Peter had transplanted the luxury, the pomp, and the vices, of the Imperial City. Secure from the fraud or violence of a powerful and barbarous nobility, the courtiers of the See surrendered themselves to a holyday of delight - their repose was devoted to enjoyment, and Avignon presented, at that day, perhaps the gayest and most voluptuous society of Europe. The elegance of Clement VI. had diffused an air of literary refinement over the grosser pleasures of the place, and the spirit of Petrarch still continued to work its way through the councils of faction and the orgies of debauch.
Innocent VI. had lately succeeded Clement, and whatever his own claims to learning, (Matteo Villani (lib. iii. cap. 44) says, that Innocent VI. had not much pretension to learning. He is reported, however, by other authorities, cited by Zefirino Re, to have been "eccellente canonista." He had been a professor in the University of Toulouse.) he, at least, appreciated knowledge and intellect in others; so that the graceful pedantry of the time continued to mix itself with the pursuit of pleasure. The corruption which reigned through the whole place was too confirmed to yield to the example of Innocent, himself a man of simple habits and exemplary life. Though, like his predecessor, obedient to the policy of France, Innocent possessed a hard and an extended ambition. Deeply concerned for the interests of the Church, he formed the project of confirming and re-establishing her shaken dominion in Italy; and he regarded the tyrants of the various states as the principal obstacles to his ecclesiastical ambition. Nor was this the policy of Innocent VI. alone. With such exceptions as peculiar circumstances necessarily occasioned, the Papal See was, upon the whole, friendly to the political liberties of Italy. The Republics of the Middle Ages grew up under the shadow of the Church; and there, as elsewhere, it was found, contrary to a vulgar opinion, that Religion, however prostituted and perverted, served for the general protection of civil freedom, - raised the lowly, and resisted the oppressor.
At this period there appeared at Avignon a lady of singular and matchless beauty. She had come with a slender but well appointed retinue from Florence, but declared herself of Neapolitan birth; the widow of a noble of the brilliant court of the unfortunate Jane. Her name was Cesarini. Arrived at a place where, even in the citadel of Christianity, Venus retained her ancient empire, where Love made the prime business of life, and to be beautiful was to be of power; the Signora Cesarini had scarcely appeared in public before she saw at her feet half the rank and gallantry of Avignon. Her female attendants were beset with bribes and billets; and nightly, beneath her lattice, was heard the plaintive serenade. She entered largely into the gay dissipation of the town, and her charms shared the celebrity of the hour with the verse of Petrarch. But though she frowned on none, none could claim the monopoly of her smiles. Her fair fame was as yet unblemished; but if any might presume beyond the rest, she seemed to have selected rather from ambition than love, and Giles, the warlike Cardinal d'Albornoz, all powerful at the sacred court, already foreboded the hour of his triumph.
It was late noon, and in the ante-chamber of the fair Signora waited two of that fraternity of pages, fair and richly clad, who, at that day, furnished the favourite attendants to rank of either sex.
"By my troth," cried one of these young servitors, pushing from him the dice with which himself and his companion had sought to beguile their leisure, "this is but dull work! and the best part of the day is gone. Our lady is late."
"And I have donned my new velvet mantle," replied the other, compassionately eyeing his finery.
"Chut, Giacomo," said his comrade, yawning; "a truce with thy conceit. - What news abroad, I wonder? Has his Holiness come to his senses yet?"
"His senses! what, is he mad then?" quoth Giacomo, in a serious and astonished whisper.
"I think he is; if, being Pope, he does not discover that he may at length lay aside mask and hood. 'Continent Cardinal - lewd Pope,' is the old motto, you know; something must be the matter with the good man's brain if he continue to live like a hermit."
"Oh, I have you! but faith, his Holiness has proxies eno'. The bishops take care to prevent women, Heaven bless them! going out of fashion; and Albornoz does not maintain your proverb, touching the Cardinals."
"True, but Giles is a warrior, - a cardinal in the church, but a soldier in the city."
"Will he carry the fort here, think you, Angelo?"
"Why, fort is female, but - "
"The Signora's brow is made for power, rather than love, fair as it is. She sees in Albornoz the prince, and not the lover. With what a step she sweeps the floor! it disdains even the cloth of gold!"
"Hark!" cried Giacomo, hastening to the lattice, "hear you the hoofs below? Ah, a gallant company!"
"Returned from hawking," answered Angelo, regarding wistfully the cavalcade, as it swept the narrow street. "Plumes waving, steeds curvetting - see how yon handsome cavalier presses close to that dame!"
"His mantle is the colour of mine," sighed Giacomo.
As the gay procession paced slowly on, till hidden by the winding street, and as the sound of laughter and the tramp of horses was yet faintly heard, there frowned right before the straining gaze of the pages, a dark massive tower of the mighty masonry of the eleventh century: the sun gleamed sadly on its vast and dismal surface, which was only here and there relieved by loopholes and narrow slits, rather than casements. It was a striking contrast to the gaiety around, the glittering shops, and the gaudy train that had just filled the space below. This contrast the young men seemed involuntarily to feel; they drew back, and looked at each other.
"I know your thoughts, Giacomo," said Angelo, the handsomer and elder of the two. "You think yon tower affords but a gloomy lodgment?"
"And I thank my stars that made me not high enough to require so grand a cage," rejoined Giacomo.
"Yet," observed Angelo, "it holds one, who in birth was not our superior."
"Do tell me something of that strange man," said Giacomo, regaining his seat; "you are Roman and should know."
"Yes!" answered Angelo, haughtily drawing himself up, "I am Roman! and I should be unworthy my birth, if I had not already learned what honour is due to the name of Cola di Rienzi."
"Yet your fellow-Romans merely stoned him, I fancy," muttered Giacomo. "Honour seems to lie more in kicks than money. Can you tell me," continued the page in a louder key, "can you tell me if it be true, that Rienzi appeared at Prague before the Emperor, and prophesied that the late Pope and all the Cardinals should be murdered, and a new Italian Pope elected, who should endue the Emperor with a golden crown, as Sovereign of Sicilia, Calabria, and Apulia, (An absurd fable, adopted by certain historians.) and himself with a crown of silver, as King of Rome, and all Italy? And - "
"Hush!" interrupted Angelo, impatiently. "Listen to me, and you shall know the exact story. On last leaving Rome (thou knowest that, after his fall, he was present at the Jubilee in disguise) the Tribune - " here Angelo, pausing, looked round, and then with a flushed cheek and raised voice resumed, "Yes, the Tribune, that was and shall be - travelled in disguise, as a pilgrim, over mountain and forest, night and day, exposed to rain and storm, no shelter but the cave, - he who had been, they say, the very spoilt one of Luxury. Arrived at length in Bohemia, he disclosed himself to a Florentine in Prague, and through his aid obtained audience of the Emperor Charles."
"A prudent man, the Emperor!" said Giacomo, "close-fisted as a miser. He makes conquests by bargain, and goes to market for laurels, - as I have heard my brother say, who was under him."
"True; but I have also heard that he likes bookmen and scholars - is wise and temperate, and much is yet hoped from him in Italy! Before the Emperor, I say, came Rienzi. 'Know, great Prince,' said he, 'that I am that Rienzi to whom God gave to govern Rome, in peace, with justice, and to freedom. I curbed the nobles, I purged corruption, I amended law. The powerful persecuted me - pride and envy have chased me from my dominions. Great as you are, fallen as I am, I too have wielded the sceptre and might have worn a crown. Know, too, that I am illegitimately of your lineage; my father the son of Henry VII.; (Uncle to the Emperor Charles.) the blood of the Teuton rolls in my veins; mean as were my earlier fortunes and humble my earlier name! From you, O King, I seek protection, and I demand justice." (See, for this speech, "the Anonymous Biographer," lib. ii. cap.
"A bold speech, and one from equal to equal," said Giacomo; "surely you swell us out the words."
"Not a whit; they were written down by the Emperor's scribe, and every Roman who has once heard knows them by heart: once every Roman was the equal to a king, and Rienzi maintained our dignity in asserting his own."
Giacomo, who discreetly avoided quarrels, knew the weak side of his friend; and though in his heart he thought the Romans as good-for-nothing a set of turbulent dastards as all Italy might furnish, he merely picked a straw from his mantle, and said, in rather an impatient tone, "Humph! proceed! did the Emperor dismiss him?"
"Not so: Charles was struck with his bearing and his spirit, received him graciously, and entertained him hospitably. He remained some time at Prague, and astonished all the learned with his knowledge and eloquence." (His Italian contemporary delights in representing this remarkable man as another Crichton. "Disputava," he says of him when at Prague, "disputava con Mastri di teologia; molto diceva, parlava cose meravigliose...abbair fea ogni persona." - "He disputed with Masters of theology - he spoke much, he discoursed things wonderful - he astonished every one.")
"But if so honoured at Prague, how comes he a prisoner at Avignon?"
"Giacomo," said Angelo, thoughtfully, "there are some men whom we, of another mind and mould, can rarely comprehend, and never fathom. And of such men I have observed that a supreme confidence in their own fortunes or their own souls, is the most common feature. Thus impressed, and thus buoyed, they rush into danger with a seeming madness, and from danger soar to greatness, or sink to death. So with Rienzi; dissatisfied with empty courtesies and weary of playing the pedant, since once he had played the prince; - some say of his own accord, (though others relate that he was surrendered to the Pope's legate by Charles,) he left the Emperor's court, and without arms, without money, betook himself at once to Avignon!"
"Yet, perhaps his only course, under all circumstances," resumed the elder page. "Once before his fall, and once during his absence from Rome, he had been excommunicated by the Pope's legate. He was accused of heresy - the ban was still on him. It was necessary that he should clear himself. How was the poor exile to do so? No powerful friend stood up for the friend of the people. No courtier vindicated one who had trampled on the neck of the nobles. His own genius was his only friend; on that only could he rely. He sought Avignon, to free himself from the accusations against him; and, doubtless, he hoped that there was but one step from his acquittal to his restoration. Besides, it is certain that the Emperor had been applied to, formally to surrender Rienzi. He had the choice before him; for to that sooner or later it must come - to go free, or to go in bonds - as a criminal, or as a Roman. He chose the latter. Wherever he passed along, the people rose in every town, in every hamlet. The name of the great Tribune was honoured throughout all Italy. They besought him not to rush into the very den of peril - they implored him to save himself for that country which he had sought to raise. 'I go to vindicate myself, and to triumph,' was the Tribune's answer. Solemn honours were paid him in the cities through which he passed; ("Per tutto la via li furo fatti solenni onori," &c. - "Vita di Cola di Rienzi", lib. ii. cap. 13.) and I am told that never ambassador, prince, or baron, entered Avignon with so long a train as that which followed into these very walls the steps of Cola di Rienzi."
"And on his arrival?"
"He demanded an audience, that he might refute the charges against him. He flung down the gage to the proud cardinals who had excommunicated him. He besought a trial."
"And what said the Pope?"
"Nothing - by word. Yon tower was his answer!"
"A rough one!"
"But there have been longer roads than that from the prison to the palace, and God made not men like Rienzi for the dungeon and the chain."
As Angelo said this with a loud voice, and with all the enthusiasm with which the fame of the fallen Tribune had inspired the youth of Rome, he heard a sigh behind him. He turned in some confusion, and at the door which admitted to the chamber occupied by the Signora Cesarini, stood a female of noble presence. Attired in the richest garments, gold and gems were dull to the lustre of her dark eyes, and as she now stood, erect and commanding, never seemed brow more made for the regal crown - never did human beauty more fully consummate the ideal of a heroine and a queen.
"Pardon me, Signora," said Angelo, hesitatingly; "I spoke loud, I disturbed you; but I am Roman, and my theme was - "
"Rienzi!" said the lady, approaching; "a fit one to stir a Roman heart. Nay - no excuses: they would sound ill on thy generous lips. Ah, if - " the Signora paused suddenly, and sighed again; then in an altered and graver tone she resumed - "If fate restore Rienzi to his proper fortunes, he shall know what thou deemest of him."
"If you, lady, who are of Naples," said Angelo, with meaning emphasis, "speak thus of a fallen exile, what must I have felt who acknowledge a sovereign?"
"Rienzi is not of Rome alone - he is of Italy - of the world," returned the Signora. "And you, Angelo, who have had the boldness to speak thus of one fallen, have proved with what loyalty you can serve those who have the fortune to own you."
As she spoke, the Signora looked at the page's downcast and blushing face long and wistfully, with the gaze of one accustomed to read the soul in the countenance.
"Men are often deceived," said she sadly, yet with a half smile; "but women rarely, - save in love. Would that Rome were filled with such as you! Enough! Hark! Is that the sound of hoofs in the court below?"
"Madam," said Giacomo, bringing his mantle gallantly over his shoulder, "I see the servitors of Monsignore the Cardinal d'Albornoz. - It is the Cardinal himself."
"It is well!" said the Signora, with a brightening eye; "I await him!" With these words she withdrew by the door through which she had surprised the Roman page.
Chapter 7.II. The Character of a Warrior Priest - an Interview - the Intrigue and Counter-intrigue of Courts.
Giles, (or Egidio, (Egidio is the proper Italian equivalent to the French name Gilles, - but the Cardinal is generally called, by the writers of that day, Gilio d'Albornoz.)) Cardinal d'Albornoz, was one of the most remarkable men of that remarkable time, so prodigal of genius. Boasting his descent from the royal houses of Aragon and Leon, he had early entered the church, and yet almost a youth, attained the archbishopric of Toledo. But no peaceful career, however brilliant, sufficed to his ambition. He could not content himself with the honours of the church, unless they were the honours of a church militant. In the war against the Moors, no Spaniard had more highly distinguished himself; and Alphonso XI. king of Castile, had insisted on receiving from the hand of the martial priest the badge of knighthood. After the death of Alphonso, who was strongly attached to him, Albornoz repaired to Avignon, and obtained from Clement
Leaving his attendant gentlemen in the antechamber, Albornoz was ushered into the apartment of the Signora Cesarini. In person, the Cardinal was about the middle height; the dark complexion of Spain had faded by thought, and the wear of ambitious schemes, into a sallow but hardy hue; his brow was deeply furrowed, and though not yet passed the prime of life, Albornoz might seem to have entered age, but for the firmness of his step, the slender elasticity of his frame, and an eye which had acquired calmness and depth from thought, without losing any of the brilliancy of youth.
"Beautiful Signora," said the Cardinal, bending over the hand of the Cesarini with a grace which betokened more of the prince than of the priest; "the commands of his Holiness have detained me, I fear, beyond the hour in which you vouchsafed to appoint my homage, but my heart has been with you since we parted."
"The Cardinal d'Albornoz," replied the Signora, gently withdrawing her hand, and seating herself, "has so many demands on his time, from the duties of his rank and renown, that methinks to divert his attention for a few moments to less noble thoughts is a kind of treason to his fame."
"Ah, Lady," replied the Cardinal, "never was my ambition so nobly directed as it is now. And it were a prouder lot to be at thy feet than on the throne of St. Peter."
A momentary blush passed over the cheek of the Signora, yet it seemed the blush of indignation as much as of vanity; it was succeeded by an extreme paleness. She paused before she replied; and then fixing her large and haughty eyes on the enamoured Spaniard, she said, in a low voice,
"My Lord Cardinal, I do not affect to misunderstand your words; neither do I place them to the account of a general gallantry. I am vain enough to believe you imagine you speak truly when you say you love me."
"Imagine!" echoed the Spaniard.
"Listen to me," continued the Signora. "She whom the Cardinal Albornoz honours with his love has a right to demand of him its proofs. In the papal court, whose power like his? - I require you to exercise it for me."
"Speak, dearest Lady; have your estates been seized by the barbarians of these lawless times? Hath any dared to injure you? Lands and titles, are these thy wish? - my power is thy slave."
"Cardinal, no! there is one thing dearer to an Italian and a woman than wealth or station - it is revenge!"
The Cardinal drew back from the flashing eye that was bent upon him, but the spirit of her speech touched a congenial chord.
"There," said he, after a little hesitation, "there spake high descent. Revenge is the luxury of the well-born. Let serfs and churls forgive an injury. Proceed, Lady."
"Hast thou heard the last news from Rome?" asked the Signora.
"Surely," replied the Cardinal, in some surprise, "we were poor statesmen to be ignorant of the condition of the capital of the papal dominions; and my heart mourns for that unfortunate city. But wherefore wouldst thou question me of Rome? - thou art - "
"Roman! Know, my Lord, that I have a purpose in calling myself of Naples. To your discretion I intrust my secret - I am of Rome! Tell me of her state."
"Fairest one," returned the Cardinal, "I should have known that that brow and presence were not of the light Campania. My reason should have told me that they bore the stamp of the Empress of the World. The state of Rome," continued Albornoz, in a graver tone, "is briefly told. Thou knowest that after the fall of the able but insolent Rienzi, Pepin, count of Minorbino, (a creature of Montreal's) who had assisted in expelling him, would have betrayed Rome to Montreal, - but he was neither strong enough nor wise enough, and the Barons chased him as he had chased the Tribune. Some time afterwards a new demagogue, John Cerroni, was installed in the Capitol. He once more expelled the nobles; new revolutions ensued - the Barons were recalled. The weak successor of Rienzi summoned the people to arms - in vain: in terror and despair he abdicated his power, and left the city a prey to the interminable feuds of the Orsini, the Colonna, and the Savelli."
"Thus much I know, my Lord; but when his Holiness succeeded to the chair of Clement VI. - "
"Then," said Albornoz, and a slight frown darkened his sallow brow, "then came the blacker part of the history. Two senators were elected in concert by the Pope."
"Bertoldo Orsini, and one of the Colonna. A few weeks afterwards, the high price of provisions stung the rascal stomachs of the mob - they rose, they clamoured, they armed, they besieged the Capitol - "
"Well, well," cried the Signora, clasping her hands, and betokening in every feature her interest in the narration.
"Colonna only escaped death by a vile disguise; Bertoldo Orsini was stoned."
"Stoned! - there fell one!"
"Yes, lady, one of a great house; the least drop of whose blood were worth an ocean of plebeian puddle. At present, all is disorder, misrule, anarchy, at Rome. The contests of the nobles shake the city to the centre; and prince and people, wearied of so many experiments to establish a government, have now no governor but the fear of the sword. Such, fair madam, is the state of Rome. Sigh not, it occupies now our care. It shall be remedied; and I, madam, may be the happy instrument of restoring peace to your native city."
"There is but one way of restoring peace to Rome," answered the Signora, abruptly, "and that is - The restoration of Rienzi!"
The Cardinal started. "Madam," said he, "do I hear aright? - are you not nobly born? - can you desire the rise of a plebeian? Did you not speak of revenge, and now you ask for mercy?"
"Lord Cardinal," said the beautiful Signora, earnestly, "I do not ask for mercy: such a word is not for the lips of one who demands justice. Nobly born I am - ay, and from a stock to whose long descent from the patricians of ancient Rome the high line of Aragon itself would be of yesterday. Nay, I would not offend you, Monsignore; your greatness is not borrowed from pedigrees and tombstones - your greatness is your own achieving: would you speak honestly, my Lord, you would own that you are proud only of your own laurels, and that, in your heart, you laugh at the stately fools who trick themselves out in the mouldering finery of the dead!"
"Muse! prophetess! you speak aright," said the high-spirited Cardinal, with unwonted energy; "and your voice is like that of the Fame I dreamed of in my youth. Speak on, speak ever!"
"Such," continued the Signora, "such as your pride, is the just pride of Rienzi. Proud that he is the workman of his own great renown. In such as the Tribune of Rome we acknowledge the founders of noble lineage. Ancestry makes not them - they make ancestry. Enough of this. I am of noble race, it is true; but my house, and those of many, have been crushed and broken beneath the yoke of the Orsini and Colonna - it is against them I desire revenge. But I am better than an Italian lady - I am a Roman woman - I weep tears of blood for the disorders of my unhappy country. I mourn that even you, my Lord, - yes, that a barbarian, however eminent and however great, should mourn for Rome. I desire to restore her fortunes."
"But Rienzi would only restore his own."
"Not so, my Lord Cardinal; not so. Ambitious and proud he may be - great souls are so - but he has never had one wish divorced from the welfare of Rome. But put aside all thought of his interests - it is not of these I speak. You desire to re-establish the papal power in Rome. Your senators have failed to do it. Demagogues fail - Rienzi alone can succeed; he alone can command the turbulent passions of the Barons - he alone can sway the capricious and fickle mob. Release, restore Rienzi, and through Rienzi the Pope regains Rome!"
The Cardinal did not answer for some moments. Buried as in a revery, he sate motionless, shading his face with his hand. Perhaps he secretly owned there was a wiser policy in the suggestions of the Signora than he cared openly to confess. Lifting his head, at length, from his bosom, he fixed his eyes upon the Signora's watchful countenance, and, with a forced smile, said,
"Pardon me, madam; but while we play the politicians, forget not that I am thy adorer. Sagacious may be thy counsels, yet wherefore are they urged? Why this anxious interest for Rienzi? If by releasing him the Church may gain an ally, am I sure that Giles d'Albornoz will not raise a rival?"
"My Lord, said the Signora, half rising, "you are my suitor; but your rank does not tempt me - your gold cannot buy. If you love me, I have a right to command your services to whatsoever task I would require - it is the law of chivalry. If ever I yield to the addresses of mortal lover, it will be to the man who restores to my native land her hero and her saviour."
"Fair patriot," said the Cardinal, "your words encourage my hope, yet they half damp my ambition; for fain would I desire that love and not service should alone give me the treasure that I ask. But hear me, sweet lady; you over-rate my power: I cannot deliver Rienzi - he is accused of rebellion, he is excommunicated for heresy. His acquittal rests with himself."
"You can procure his trial?"
"That is his acquittal. And a private audience of his Holiness?"
"That is his restoration! Behold all I ask!"
"And then, sweet Roman, it will be mine to ask," said the Cardinal, passionately, dropping on his knee, and taking the Signora's hand. For one moment, that proud lady felt that she was woman - she blushed, she trembled; but it was not (could the Cardinal have read that heart) with passion or with weakness; it was with terror and with shame. Passively she surrendered her hand to the Cardinal, who covered it with kisses.
"Thus inspired," said Albornoz, rising, "I will not doubt of success. Tomorrow I wait on thee again."
He pressed her hand to his heart - the lady felt it not. He sighed his farewell - she did not hear it. Lingeringly he gazed; and slowly he departed. But it was some moments before, recalled to herself, the Signora felt that she was alone.
"Alone!" she cried, half aloud, and with wild emphasis - "alone! Oh, what have I undergone - what have I said! Unfaithful, even in thought, to him! Oh, never! never! I, that have felt the kiss of his hallowing lips - that have slept on his kingly heart - I! - holy Mother, befriend and strengthen me!" she continued, as, weeping bitterly, she sunk upon her knees; and for some moments she was lost in prayer. Then, rising composed, but deadly pale, and with the tears rolling heavily down her cheeks, the Signora passed slowly to the casement; she threw it open, and bent forward; the air of the declining day came softly on her temples; it cooled, it mitigated, the fever that preyed within. Dark and huge before her frowned, in its gloomy shadow, the tower in which Rienzi was confined; she gazed at it long and wistfully, and then, turning away, drew from the folds of her robe a small and sharp dagger. "Let me save him for glory!" she murmured; "and this shall save me from dishonour!"
Chapter 7.III. Holy Men. - Sagacious Deliberations. - Just Resolves. - And Sordid Motives to All.
Enamoured of the beauty, and almost equally so of the lofty spirit, of the Signora Cesarini, as was the warlike Cardinal of Spain, love with him was not so master a passion as that ambition of complete success in all the active designs of life, which had hitherto animated his character and signalized his career. Musing, as he left the Signora, on her wish for the restoration of the Roman Tribune, his experienced and profound intellect ran swiftly through whatever advantages to his own political designs might result from that restoration. We have seen that it was the intention of the new Pontiff to attempt the recovery of the patrimonial territories, now torn from him by the gripe of able and disaffected tyrants. With this view, a military force was already in preparation, and the Cardinal was already secretly nominated the chief. But the force was very inadequate to the enterprise; and Albornoz depended much upon the moral strength of the cause in bringing recruits to his standard in his progress through the Italian states. The wonderful rise of Rienzi had excited an extraordinary enthusiasm in his favour through all the free populations of Italy. And this had been yet more kindled and inflamed by the influential eloquence of Petrarch, who, at that time, possessed of a power greater than ever, before or since, (not even excepting the Sage of Ferney,) wielded by a single literary man, had put forth his boldest genius in behalf of the Roman Tribune. Such a companion as Rienzi in the camp of the Cardinal might be a magnet of attraction to the youth and enterprise of Italy. On nearing Rome, he might himself judge how far it would be advisable to reinstate Rienzi as a delegate of the papal power. And, in the meanwhile, the Roman's influence might be serviceable, whether to awe the rebellious nobles or conciliate the stubborn people. On the other hand, the Cardinal was shrewd enough to perceive that no possible good could arise from Rienzi's present confinement. With every month it excited deeper and more universal sympathy. To his lonely dungeon turned half the hearts of republican Italy. Literature had leagued its new and sudden, and therefore mighty and even disproportioned, power with his cause; and the Pope, without daring to be his judge, incurred the odium of being his gaoler. "A popular prisoner," said the sagacious Cardinal to himself, "is the most dangerous of guests. Restore him as your servant, or destroy him as your foe! In this case I see no alternative but acquittal or the knife!" In these reflections that able plotter, deep in the Machiavelism of the age, divorced the lover from the statesman.
Recurring now to the former character, he felt some disagreeable and uneasy forebodings at the earnest interest of his mistress. Fain would he have attributed, either to some fantasy of patriotism or some purpose of revenge, the anxiety of the Cesarini; and there was much in her stern and haughty character which favoured that belief. But he was forced to acknowledge to himself some jealous apprehension of a sinister and latent motive, which touched his vanity and alarmed his love. "Howbeit," he thought, as he turned from his unwilling fear, "I can play with her at her own weapons; I can obtain the release of Rienzi, and claim my reward. If denied, the hand that opened the dungeon can again rivet the chain. In her anxiety is my power!"
These thoughts the Cardinal was still revolving in his palace, when he was suddenly summoned to attend the Pontiff.
The pontifical palace no longer exhibited the gorgeous yet graceful luxury of Clement VI., and the sarcastic Cardinal smiled to himself at the quiet gloom of the ante-chambers. "He thinks to set an example - this poor native of Limoges!" thought Albornoz; "and has but the mortification of finding himself eclipsed by the poorest bishop. He humbles himself, and fancies that the humility will be contagious."
His Holiness was seated before a small and rude table bestrewed with papers, his face buried in his hands; the room was simply furnished, and in a small niche beside the casement was an ivory crucifix; below, the death's head and cross-bones, which most monks then introduced with a purpose similar to that of the ancients by the like ornaments, - mementos of the shortness of life, and therefore admonitions to make the best of it! On the ground lay a map of the Patrimonial Territory, with the fortresses in especial, distinctly and prominently marked. The Pope gently lifted up his head as the Cardinal was announced, and discovered a plain but sensible and somewhat interesting countenance. "My son!" said he, with a kindly courtesy to the lowly salutation of the proud Spaniard, "scarcely wouldst thou imagine, after our long conference this morning, that new cares would so soon demand the assistance of thy counsels. Verily, the wreath of thorns stings sharp under the triple crown; and I sometimes long for the quiet abode of my old professor's chair in Toulouse: my station is of pain and toil."
"God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb," observed the Cardinal, with pious and compassionate gravity.
Innocent could scarcely refrain a smile as he replied, "The lamb that carries the cross must have the strength of the lion. Since we parted, my son, I have had painful intelligence; our couriers have arrived from the Campagna - the heathen rage furiously - the force of John di Vico has augmented fearfully, and the most redoubted adventurer of Europe has enlisted under his banner."
"Does his Holiness," cried the Cardinal, anxiously, "speak of Fra Moreale, the Knight of St. John?"
"Of no less a warrior," returned the Pontiff. "I dread the vast ambition of that wild adventurer."
"Your Holiness hath cause," said the Cardinal, drily.
"Some letters of his have fallen into the hands of the servants of the Church; they are here: read them, my son."
Albornoz received and deliberately scanned the letters; this done, he replaced them on the table, and remained for a few moments silent and absorbed.
"What think you, my son?" said the Pope, at length, with an impatient and even peevish tone.
"I think that, with Montreal's hot genius and John di Vico's frigid villany, your Holiness may live to envy, if not the quiet, at least the revenue, of the Professor's chair."
"How, Cardinal!" said the Pope, hastily, and with an angry flush on his pale brow. The Cardinal quietly proceeded.
"By these letters it seems that Montreal has written to all the commanders of free lances throughout Italy, offering the highest pay of a soldier to every man who will join his standard, combined with the richest plunder of a brigand. He meditates great schemes then! - I know the man!"
"Well, - and our course?"
"Is plain," said the Cardinal, loftily, and with an eye that flashed with a soldier's fire. "Not a moment is to be lost! Thy son should at once take the field. Up with the Banner of the Church!"
"But are we strong enough? our numbers are few. Zeal slackens! the piety of the Baldwins is no more!"
"Your Holiness knows well," said the Cardinal, "that for the multitude of men there are two watchwords of war - Liberty and Religion. If Religion begins to fail, we must employ the profaner word. 'Up with the Banner of the Church - and down with the tyrants!' We will proclaim equal laws and free government; (In correcting the pages of this work, in the year 1847...strange coincidences between the present policy of the Roman Church and that by which in the 14th century it recovered both spiritual and temporal power cannot fail to suggest themselves.) and, God willing, our camp shall prosper better with those promises than the tents of Montreal with the more vulgar shout of 'Pay and Rapine.'"
"Giles d'Albornoz," said the Pope, emphatically; and, warmed by the spirit of the Cardinal, he dropped the wonted etiquette of phrase, "I trust implicitly to you. Now the right hand of the Church - hereafter, perhaps, its head. Too well I feel that the lot has fallen on a lowly place. My successor must requite my deficiencies."
No changing hue, no brightening glance, betrayed to the searching eye of the Pope whatever emotion these words had called up in the breast of the ambitious Cardinal. He bowed his proud head humbly as he answered, "Pray Heaven that Innocent VI. may long live to guide the Church to glory. For Giles d'Albornoz, less priest than soldier, the din of the camp, the breath of the war-steed, suggest the only aspirations which he ever dares indulge. But has your Holiness imparted to your servant all that - "
"Nay," interrupted Innocent, "I have yet intelligence equally ominous. This John di Vico, - pest go with him! - who still styles himself (the excommunicated ruffian!) Prefect of Rome, has so filled that unhappy city with his emissaries, that we have well-nigh lost the seat of the Apostle. Rome, long in anarchy, seems now in open rebellion. The nobles - sons of Belial! - it is true, are once more humbled; but how? - One Baroncelli, a new demagogue, the fiercest - the most bloody that the fiend ever helped - has arisen - is invested by the mob with power, and uses it to butcher the people and insult the Pontiff. Wearied of the crimes of this man, (which are not even decorated by ability,) the shout of the people day and night along the streets is for 'Rienzi the Tribune.'"
"Ha!" said the Cardinal, "Rienzi's faults then are forgotten in Rome, and there is felt for him the same enthusiasm in that city as in the rest of Italy?"
"Alas! It is so."
"It is well, I have thought of this: Rienzi can accompany my progress - "
"My son! the rebel, the heretic - "
"By your Holiness's absolution will become quiet subject and orthodox Catholic," said Albornoz. "Men are good or bad as they suit our purpose. What matters a virtue that is useless, or a crime that is useful, to us? The army of the Church proceeds against tyrants - it proclaims everywhere to the Papal towns the restoration of their popular constitutions. Sees not your Holiness that the acquittal of Rienzi, the popular darling, will be hailed an earnest of your sincerity? - sees not your Holiness that his name will fight for us? - sees not your Holiness that the great demagogue Rienzi must be used to extinguish the little demagogue Baroncelli? We must regain the Romans, whether of the city or whether in the seven towns of John di Vico. When they hear Rienzi is in our camp, trust me, we shall have a multitude of deserters from the tyrants - trust me, we shall hear no more of Baroncelli."
"Ever sagacious," said the Pope, musingly; "it is true, we can use this man: but with caution. His genius is formidable - "
"And therefore must be conciliated; if we acquit, we must make him ours. My experience has taught me this, when you cannot slay a demagogue by law, crush him with honours. He must be no longer Tribune of the People. Give him the Patrician title of Senator, and he is then the Lieutenant of the Pope!"
"I will see to this, my son - your suggestions please, but alarm me: he shall at least be examined; - but if found a heretic - "
"Should, I humbly advise, be declared a saint."
The Pope bent his brow for a moment, but the effort was too much for him, and after a moment's struggle, he fairly laughed aloud.
"Go to, my son," said he, affectionately patting the Cardinal's sallow cheek. "Go to. - If the world heard thee, what would it say?"
"That Giles d'Albornoz had just enough religion to remember that the State is a Church, but not too much to forget that the Church is a State."
With these words the conference ended. That very evening the Pope decreed that Rienzi should be permitted the trial he had demanded.
Chapter 7.IV. The Lady and the Page.
It wanted three hours of midnight, when Albornoz, resuming his character of gallant, despatched to the Signora Cesarini the following billet.
"Your commands are obeyed. Rienzi will receive an examination on his faith. It is well that he should be prepared. It may suit your purpose, as to which I am so faintly enlightened, to appear to the prisoner what you are - the obtainer of this grace. See how implicitly one noble heart can trust another! I send by the bearer an order that will admit one of your servitors to the prisoner's cell. Be it, if you will, your task to announce to him the new crisis of his fate. Ah! madam, may fortune be as favourable to me, and grant me the same intercessor - from thy lips my sentence is to come."
As Albornoz finished this epistle, he summoned his confidential attendant, a Spanish gentleman, who saw nothing in his noble birth that should prevent his fulfilling the various hests of the Cardinal.
"Alvarez," said he, "these to the Signora Cesarini by another hand; thou art unknown to her household. Repair to the state tower; this to the Governor admits thee. Mark who is admitted to the prisoner Cola di Rienzi: Know his name, examine whence he comes. Be keen, Alvarez. Learn by what motive the Cesarini interests herself in the prisoner's fate. All too of herself, birth, fortunes, lineage, would be welcome intelligence. Thou comprehendest me? It is well. One caution - thou hast no mission from, no connexion with, me. Thou art an officer of the prison, or of the Pope, - what thou wilt. Give me the rosary; light the lamp before the crucifix; place yon hair-shirt beneath those arms. I would have it appear as if meant to be hidden! Tell Gomez that the Dominican preacher is to be admitted."
"Those friars have zeal," continued the Cardinal to himself, as, after executing his orders, Alvarez withdrew. "They would burn a man - but only on the Bible? They are worth conciliating, if the triple crown be really worth the winning; were it mine, I would add the eagle's plume to it."
And plunged into the aspiring future, this bold man forgot even the object of his passion. In real life, after a certain age, ambitious men love indeed; but it is only as an interlude. And indeed with most men, life has more absorbing though not more frequent concerns than those of love. Love is the business of the idle, but the idleness of the busy.
The Cesarini was alone when the Cardinal's messenger arrived, and he was scarcely dismissed with a few lines, expressive of a gratitude which seemed to bear down all those guards with which the coldness of the Signora usually fenced her pride, before the page Angelo was summoned to her presence.
The room was dark with the shades of the gathering night when the youth entered, and he discerned but dimly the outline of the Signora's stately form; but by the tone of her voice, he perceived that she was deeply agitated.
"Angelo," said she, as he approached, "Angelo - " and her voice failed her. She paused as for breath and again proceeded. "You alone have served us faithfully; you alone shared our escape, our wanderings, our exile - you alone know my secret - you of my train alone are Roman! - Roman! it was once a great name. Angelo, the name has fallen; but it is only because the nature of the Roman Race fell first. Haughty they are, but fickle; fierce, but dastard; vehement in promise, but rotten in their faith. You are a Roman, and though I have proved your truth, your very birth makes me afraid of falsehood."
"Madam," said the page; "I was but a child when you admitted me of your service, and I am yet only on the verge of manhood. But boy though I yet be, I would brave the stoutest lance of knight, or freebooter, in defence of the faith of Angelo Villani, to his liege Lady and his native land."
"Alas! alas!" said the Signora, bitterly, "such have been the words of thousands of thy race. What have been their deeds? But I will trust thee, as I have trusted ever. I know that thou art covetous of honour, that thou hast youth's comely and bright ambition."
"I am an orphan and a bastard," said Angelo, bluntly! "And circumstance stings me sharply on to action; I would win my own name."
"Thou shalt," said the Signora. "We shall live yet to reward thee. And now be quick. Bring hither one of thy page's suits, - mantle and head- gear. Quick, I say, and whisper not to a soul what I have asked of thee."
Chapter 7.V. The Inmate of the Tower.
The night slowly advanced, and in the highest chamber of that dark and rugged tower which fronted the windows of the Cesarini's palace sate a solitary prisoner. A single lamp burned before him on a table of stone, and threw its rays over an open Bible; and those stern but fantastic legends of the prowess of ancient Rome, which the genius of Livy has dignified into history. ("Avea libri assai, suo Tito Livio, sue storie di Roma, la Bibbia et altri libri assai, non finava di studiare." - "Vita di Cola di Rienzi", lib. ii. cap. 13. See translation to motto to Book VII. page 202.) A chain hung pendent from the vault of the tower, and confined the captive; but so as to leave his limbs at sufficient liberty to measure at will the greater part of the cell. Green and damp were the mighty stones of the walls, and through a narrow aperture, high out of reach, came the moonlight, and slept in long shadow over the rude floor. A bed at one corner completed the furniture of the room. Such for months had been the abode of the conqueror of the haughtiest Barons, and the luxurious dictator of the stateliest city of the world!
Care, and travel, and time, and adversity, had wrought their change in the person of Rienzi. The proportions of his frame had enlarged from the compact strength of earlier manhood, the clear paleness of his cheek was bespread with a hectic and deceitful glow. Even in his present studies, intent as they seemed, and genial though the lecture to a mind enthusiastic even to fanaticism, his eyes could not rivet themselves as of yore steadily to the page. The charm was gone from the letters. Every now and then he moved restlessly, started, re-settled himself, and muttered broken exclamations like a man in an anxious dream. Anon, his gaze impatiently turned upward, about, around, and there was a strange and wandering fire in those large deep eyes, which might have thrilled the beholder with a vague and unaccountable awe.
Angelo had in the main correctly narrated the more recent adventures of Rienzi after his fall. He had first with Nina and Angelo betaken himself to Naples, and found a fallacious and brief favour with Louis, king of Hungary; that harsh but honourable monarch had refused to yield his illustrious guest to the demands of Clement, but had plainly declared his inability to shelter him in safety. Maintaining secret intercourse with his partisans at Rome, the fugitive then sought a refuge with the Eremites, sequestered in the lone recesses of the Monte Maiella, where in solitude and thought he had passed a whole year, save the time consumed in his visit to and return from Florence. Taking advantage of the Jubilee in Rome, he had then, disguised as a pilgrim, traversed the vales and mountains still rich in the melancholy ruins of ancient Rome, and entering the city, his restless and ambitious spirit indulged in new but vain conspiracies! (Rainald, Ann. 1350, N. 4, E. 5.) Excommunicated a second time by the Cardinal di Ceccano, and again a fugitive, he shook the dust from his feet as he left the city, and raising his hands towards those walls, in which are yet traced the witness of the Tarquins, cried aloud - "Honoured as thy prince - persecuted as thy victim - Rome, Rome, thou shalt yet receive me as thy conqueror!"
Still disguised as a pilgrim, he passed unmolested through Italy into the Court of the Emperor Charles of Bohemia, where the page, who had probably witnessed, had rightly narrated, his reception. It is doubtful, however, whether the conduct of the Emperor had been as chivalrous as appears by Angelo's relation, or whether he had not delivered Rienzi to the Pontiff's emissaries. At all events it is certain, that from Prague to Avignon, the path of the fallen Tribune had been as one triumph. His strange adventures
These, his external adventures, are briefly and easily told; but who shall tell what passed within? - who narrate the fearful history of the heart? - who paint the rapid changes of emotion and of thought - the indignant grief
"Ay," muttered the prisoner, "ay, these texts are comforting - comforting. The righteous are not alway oppressed." With a long sigh he deliberately put aside the Bible, kissed it with great reverence, remained silent, and musing for some minutes; and then as a slight noise was heard at one corner of the cell, said softly, "Ah, my friends, my comrades, the rats! it is their hour - I am glad I put aside the bread for them!" His eye brightened as it now detected those strange and unsocial animals venturing forth through a hole in the wall, and, darkening the moonshine on the floor, steal fearlessly towards him. He flung some fragments of bread to them, and for some moments watched their gambols with a smile. "Manchino, the white-faced rascal! he beats all the rest - ha, ha! he is a superior wretch
That singular and eccentric humour which marked Rienzi, and which had seemed a buffoonery to the stolid sullenness of the Roman nobles, still retained its old expression in his countenance, and he laughed loud as he saw the vermin hurry back to their hiding-place.
"A little noise and the clank of a chain - fie, how ye imitate mankind!" Again he sank into silence, and then heavily and listlessly drawing towards him the animated tales of Livy, said, "An hour to midnight! - waking dreams are better than sleep. Well, history tells us how men have risen - ay, and nations too - after sadder falls than that of Rienzi or of Rome!"
In a few minutes, he was apparently absorbed in the lecture; so intent indeed, was he in the task, that he did not hear the steps which wound the spiral stairs that conducted to his cell, and it was not till the wards harshly grated beneath the huge key, and the door creaked on its hinges, that Rienzi, in amaze at intrusion at so unwonted an hour, lifted his eyes. The door had reclosed on the dungeon, and by the lonely and pale lamp he beheld a figure leaning, as for support, against the wall. The figure was wrapped from head to foot in the long cloak of the day, which, aided by a broad hat, shaded by plumes, concealed even the features of the visitor.
Rienzi gazed long and wistfully.
"Speak," he said at length, putting his hand to his brow. "Methinks either long solitude has bewildered me, or, sweet sir, your apparition dazzles. I know you not - am I sure? - " and Rienzi's hair bristled while he slowly rose - "Am I sure that it is living man who stands before me? Angels have entered the prison-house before now. Alas! an angel's comfort never was more needed."
The stranger answered not, but the captive saw that his heart heaved even beneath his cloak; loud sobs choked his voice; at length, as by a violent effort, he sprung forward, and sunk at the Tribune's feet. The disguising hat, the long mantle fell to the ground - it was the face of a woman that looked upward through passionate and glazing tears - the arms of a woman that clasped the prisoner's knees! Rienzi gazed mute and motionless as stone. "Powers and Saints of Heaven!" he murmured at last, "do ye tempt me further! - is it? - no, no - yet speak!"
"Beloved - adored! - do you not know me?"
"It is - it is!" shrieked Rienzi wildly, "it is my Nina - my wife - my - " His voice forsook him. Clasped in each other's arms, the unfortunates for some moments seemed to have lost even the sense of delight at their reunion. It was as an unconscious and deep trance, through which something like a dream only faintly and indistinctively stirs.
At length recovered - at length restored, the first broken exclamations, the first wild caresses of joy over - Nina lifted her head from her husband's bosom, and gazed sadly on his countenance - "Oh, what thou hast known since we parted! - what, since that hour when, borne on by thy bold heart and wild destiny, thou didst leave me in the Imperial Court, to seek again the diadem and find the chain! Ah! why did I heed thy commands? - why suffer thee to depart alone? How often in thy progress hitherward, in doubt, in danger, might this bosom have been thy resting-place, and this voice have whispered comfort to thy soul? Thou art well, my Lord - my Cola! Thy pulse beats quicker than of old - thy brow is furrowed. Ah! tell me thou art well!"
"Well,' said Rienzi, mechanically. "Methinks so! - the mind diseased blunts all sense of bodily decay. Well - yes! And thou - thou, at least, art not changed, save to maturer beauty. The glory of the laurel-wreath has not faded from thy brow. Thou shalt yet - " then breaking off abruptly
"No - not so, Cola!" exclaimed Nina, putting her hand before his mouth. "I bring thee more auspicious tidings. Tomorrow thou art to be heard. The favour of the Court is propitiated. Thou wilt be acquitted."
"Ha! speak again."
"Thou wilt be heard, my Cola - thou must be acquitted!"
"And Rome be free! - Great God, I thank Thee!"
The Tribune sank on his knees, and never had his heart, in his youngest and purest hour, poured forth thanksgiving more fervent, yet less selfish. When he rose again, the whole man seemed changed. His eye had resumed its earlier expressions of deep and serene command. Majesty sate upon his brow. The sorrows of the exile were forgotten. In his sanguine and rapid thoughts, he stood once more the guardian of his country, - and its sovereign!
Nina gazed upon him with that intense and devoted worship, which steeped her vainer and her harder qualities in all the fondness of the softest woman. "Such," thought she, "was his look eight years ago, when he left my maiden chamber, full of the mighty schemes which liberated Rome - such his look, when at the dawning sun he towered amidst the crouching Barons, and the kneeling population of the city he had made his throne!"
"Yes, Nina!" said Rienzi, as he turned and caught her eye. "My soul tells me that my hour is at hand. If they try me openly, they dare not convict - if they acquit me, they dare not but restore. Tomorrow, saidst thou, tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow, Rienzi; be prepared!"
"I am - for triumph! But tell me what happy chance brought thee to Avignon?"
"Chance, Cola!" said Nina, with reproachful tenderness. "Could I know that thou wert in the dungeons of the Pontiff, and linger in idle security at Prague? Even at the Emperor's Court thou hadst thy partisans and favourers. Gold was easily procured. I repaired to Florence - disguised my name - and came hither to plot, to scheme, to win thy liberty, or to die with thee. Ah! did not thy heart tell thee that morning and night the eyes of thy faithful Nina gazed upon this gloomy tower; and that one friend, humble though she be, never could forsake thee!"
"Sweet Nina! Yet - yet - at Avignon power yields not to beauty without reward. Remember, there is a worse death than the pause of life."
Nina turned pale. "Fear not," she said, with a low but determined voice; "fear not, that men's lips should say Rienzi's wife delivered him. None in this corrupted Court know that I am thy wife."
"Woman," said the Tribune, sternly; "thy lips elude the answer I would seek. In our degenerate time and land, thy sex and ours forget too basely what foulness writes a leprosy in the smallest stain upon a matron's honour. That thy heart would never wrong me, I believe; but if thy weakness, thy fear of my death should wrong me, thou art a bitterer foe to Rienzi than the swords of the Colonna. Nina, speak!"
"Oh, that my soul could speak," answered Nina. "Thy words are music to me, and not a thought of mine but echoes them. Could I touch this hand, could I meet that eye, and not know that death were dearer to thee than shame? Rienzi, when last we parted, in sadness, yet in hope, what were thy words to me?"
"I remember them well," returned the Tribune: "'I leave thee,' I said, 'to keep alive at the Emperor's Court, by thy genius, the Great Cause. Thou hast youth and beauty - and courts have lawless and ruffian suitors. I give thee no caution; it were beneath thee and me. But I leave thee the power of death.' And with that, Nina - "
"Thy hands tremblingly placed in mine this dagger. I live - need I say more?"
"My noble and beloved Nina, it is enough. Keep the dagger yet."
"Yes; till we meet in the Capitol of Rome!"
A slight tap was heard at the door; Nina regained, in an instant, her disguise.
"It is on the stroke of midnight," said the gaoler, appearing at the threshold.
"I come," said Nina.
"And thou hast to prepare thy thoughts," she whispered to Rienzi: "arm all thy glorious intellect. Alas! is it again we part? How my heart sinks!"
The presence of the gaoler at the threshold broke the bitterness of parting by abridging it. The false page pressed her lips on the prisoner's hand, and left the cell.
The gaoler, lingering behind for a moment, placed a parchment on the table. It was the summons from the court appointed for the trial of the Tribune.
Chapter 7.VI. The Scent Does Not Lie. - The Priest and the Soldier.
On descending the stairs, Nina was met by Alvarez.
"Fair page," said the Spaniard, gaily, "thy name, thou tellest me, is Villani? - Angelo Villani - why I know thy kinsman, methinks. Vouchsafe, young master, to enter this chamber, and drink a night-cup to thy lady's health; I would fain learn tidings of my old friends."
"At another time," answered the false Angelo, drawing the cloak closer round her face; it is late - I am hurried."
"Nay," said the Spaniard, "you escape me not so easily;" and he caught firm hold of the page's shoulder.
"Unhand me, sir!" said Nina, haughtily, and almost weeping, for her strong nerves were yet unstrung. "Gaoler, at thy peril - unbar the gates."
"So hot," said Alvarez, surprised at so great a waste of dignity in a page; "nay, I meant not to offend thee. May I wait on thy pageship tomorrow?"
"Ay, tomorrow," said Nina, eager to escape.
"And meanwhile," said Alvarez, "I will accompany thee home - we can confer by the way."
So saying, without regarding the protestations of the supposed page, he passed with Nina into the open air. "Your lady," said he, carelessly, "is wondrous fair; her lightest will is law to the greatest noble of Avignon. Methinks she is of Naples - is it so? Art thou dumb, sweet youth?"
The page did not answer, but with a step so rapid that it almost put the slow Spaniard out of breath, hastened along the narrow space between the tower and the palace of the Signora Cesarini, nor could all the efforts of Alvarez draw forth a single syllable from his reluctant companion, till they reached the gates of the palace, and he found himself discourteously left without the walls.
"A plague on the boy!" said he, biting his lips; "if the Cardinal thrive as well as his servant, by're Lady, Monsignore is a happy man!"
By no means pleased with the prospect of an interview with Albornoz, who, like most able men, valued the talents of those he employed exactly in proportion to their success, the Spaniard slowly returned home. With the licence accorded to him, he entered the Cardinal's chamber somewhat abruptly, and perceived him in earnest conversation with a Cavalier, whose long moustache, curled upward, and the bright cuirass worn underneath his mantle, seemed to betoken him of martial profession. Pleased with the respite, Alvarez hastily withdrew: and, in fact, the Cardinal's thoughts at that moment, and for that night, were bent upon other subjects than those of love.
The interruption served, however, to shorten the conversation between Albornoz and his guest. The latter rose.
"I think," said he, buckling on a short and broad rapier, which he laid aside during the interview, - "I think, my Lord Cardinal, you encourage me to consider that our negotiation stands a fair chance of a prosperous close. Ten thousand florins, and my brother quits Viterbo, and launches the thunderbolt of the Company on the lands of Rimini. On your part - "
"On my part it is agreed," said the Cardinal, "that the army of the Church interferes not with the course of your brother's arms - there is peace between us. One warrior understands another!"
"And the word of Giles d'Albornoz, son of the royal race of Arragon, is a guarantee for the faith of a Cardinal," replied the Cavalier, with a smile. "It is, my Lord, in your former quality that we treat."
"There is my right hand," answered Albornoz, too politic to heed the insinuation. The Cavalier raised it respectfully to his lips, and his armed tread was soon heard descending the stairs.
"Victory," cried Albornoz, tossing his arms aloof; "Victory, now thou art mine!"
With that he rose hastily, deposited his papers in an iron chest, and opening a concealed door behind the arras, entered a chamber that rather resembled a monk's cell than the apartment of a prince. Over a mean pallet hung a sword, a dagger, and a rude image of the Virgin. Without summoning Alvarez, the Cardinal unrobed, and in a few moments was asleep.
Chapter 7.VII. Vaucluse and its Genius Loci. - Old Acquaintance Renewed.
The next day at early noon the Cavalier, whom our last chapter presented to the reader, was seen mounted on a strong Norman horse, winding his way slowly along a green and pleasant path some miles from Avignon. At length he found himself in a wild and romantic valley, through which wandered that delightful river whose name the verse of Petrarch has given to so beloved a fame. Sheltered by rocks, and in this part winding through the greenest banks, enamelled with a thousand wild flowers and water-weeds, went the crystal Sorgia. Advancing farther, the landscape assumed a more sombre and sterile aspect. The valley seemed enclosed or shut in by fantastic rocks of a thousand shapes, down which dashed and glittered a thousand rivulets. And, in the very wildest of the scene, the ground suddenly opened into a quaint and cultivated garden, through which, amidst a profusion of foliage, was seen a small and lonely mansion, - the hermitage of the place. The horseman was in the valley of the Vaucluse; and before his eye lay the garden and the house of PETRARCH! Carelessly, however, his eye scanned the consecrated spot; and unconsciously it rested, for a moment, upon a solitary figure seated musingly by the margin of the river. A large dog at the side of the noonday idler barked at the horseman as he rode on. "A brave animal and a deep bay!" thought the traveller; to him the dog seemed an object much more interesting than its master. And so, - as the crowd of little men pass unheeding and unmoved, those in whom Posterity shall acknowledge the landmarks of their age, - the horseman turned his glance from the Poet!
Thrice blessed name! Immortal Florentine! (I need scarcely say that it is his origin, not his actual birth, which entitles us to term Petrarch a Florentine.) not as the lover, nor even as the poet, do I bow before thy consecrated memory - venerating thee as one it were sacrilege to introduce in this unworthy page - save by name and as a shadow; but as the first who ever asserted to people and to prince the august majesty of Letters; who claimed to Genius the prerogative to influence states, to control opinion, to hold an empire over the hearts of men, and prepare events by animating passion, and guiding thought! What, (though but feebly felt and dimly seen) - what do we yet owe to Thee if Knowledge be now a Power; if MIND be a Prophet and a Fate, foretelling and foredooming the things to come! From the greatest to the least of us, to whom the pen is at once a sceptre and a sword, the low-born Florentine has been the arch-messenger to smooth the way and prepare the welcome. Yes! even the meanest of the aftercomers - even he who now vents his gratitude, - is thine everlasting debtor! Thine, how largely is the honour, if his labours, humble though they be, find an audience wherever literature is known; preaching in remotest lands the moral of forgotten revolutions, and scattering in the palace and the marketplace the seeds that shall ripen into fruit when the hand of the sower shall be dust, and his very name, perhaps, be lost! For few, alas! are they, whose names may outlive the grave; but the thoughts of every man who writes, are made undying; - others appropriate, advance, exalt them; and millions of minds unknown, undreamt of, are required to produce the immortality of one!
Indulging meditations very different from those which the idea of Petrarch awakens in a later time, the Cavalier pursued his path.
The valley was long left behind, and the way grew more and more faintly traced, until it terminated in a wood, through whose tangled boughs the sunlight broke playfully. At length, the wood opened into a wide glade, from which rose a precipitous ascent, crowned with the ruins of an old castle. The traveller dismounted, led his horse up the ascent, and, gaining the ruins, left his steed within one of the roofless chambers, overgrown with the longest grass and a profusion of wild shrubs; thence ascending, with some toil, a narrow and broken staircase, he found himself in a small room, less decayed than the rest, of which the roof and floor were yet whole.
Stretched on the ground in his cloak, and leaning his head thoughtfully on his hand, was a man of tall stature, and middle age. He lifted himself on his arm with great alacrity as the Cavalier entered.
"Well, Brettone, I have counted the hours - what tidings?"
"Glad news! Thou givest me new life. Pardieu, I shall breakfast all the better for this, my brother. Hast thou remembered that I am famishing?"
Brettone drew from beneath his cloak a sufficiently huge flask of wine, and a small panier, tolerably well filled; the inmate of the tower threw himself upon the provant with great devotion. And both the soldiers, for such they were, stretched at length on the ground, regaled themselves with considerable zest, talking hastily and familiarly between every mouthful.
"I say, Brettone, thou playest unfairly; thou hast already devoured more than half the pasty: push it hitherward. And so the Cardinal consents! What manner of man is he? Able as they say?"
"Quick, sharp, and earnest, with an eye of fire, few words, and comes to the point."
"Unlike a priest then; - a good brigand spoilt. What hast thou heard of the force he heads? Ho, not so fast with the wine."
"Scanty at present. - He relies on recruits throughout Italy."
"What his designs for Rome? There, my brother, there tends my secret soul! As for these petty towns and petty tyrants, I care not how they fall, or by whom. But the Pope must not return to Rome. Rome must be mine. The city of a new empire, the conquest of a new Attila! There, every circumstance combines in my favour! - the absence of the Pope, the weakness of the middle class, the poverty of the populace, the imbecile though ferocious barbarism of the Barons, have long concurred to render Rome the most facile, while the most glorious conquest!"
"My brother, pray Heaven your ambition do not wreck you at last; you are ever losing sight of the land. Surely with the immense wealth we are acquiring, we may - "
"Aspire to be something greater than Free Companions, generals today, and adventurers tomorrow. Rememberest thou, how the Norman sword won Sicily, and how the bastard William converted on the field of Hastings his baton into a sceptre. I tell thee, Brettone, that this loose Italy has crowns on the hedge that a dexterous hand may carry off at the point of the lance. My course is taken, I will form the fairest army in Italy, and with it I will win a throne in the Capitol. Fool that I was six years ago! - Instead of deputing that mad dolt Pepin of Minorbino, had I myself deserted the Hungarian, and repaired with my soldiery to Rome, the fall of Rienzi would have been followed by the rise of Montreal. Pepin was outwitted, and threw away the prey after he had hunted it down. The lion shall not again trust the chase to the jackal!"
"Walter, thou speakest of the fate of Rienzi, let it warn thee!"
"Rienzi!" replied Montreal; "I know the man! In peaceful times or with an honest people, he would have founded a great dynasty. But he dreamt of laws and liberty for men who despise the first and will not protect the last. We, of a harder race, know that a new throne must be built by the feudal and not the civil system; and into the city we must transport the camp. It is by the multitude that the proud Tribune gained power, - by the multitude he lost it; it is by the sword that I will win it, and by the sword will I keep it!"
"Rienzi was too cruel, he should not have incensed the Barons," said Brettone, about to finish the flask, when the strong hand of his brother plucked it from him, and anticipated the design.
"Pooh," said Montreal, finishing the draught with a long sigh, "he was not cruel enough. He sought only to be just, and not to distinguish between noble and peasant. He should have distinguished! He should have exterminated the nobles root and branch. But this no Italian can do. This is reserved for me."
"Thou wouldst not butcher all the best blood of Rome?"
"Butcher! No, but I would seize their lands, and endow with them a new nobility, the hardy and fierce nobility of the North, who well know how to guard their prince, and will guard him, as the fountain of their own power. Enough of this now. And talking of Rienzi - rots he still in his dungeon?"
"Why, this morning, ere I left, I heard strange news. The town was astir, groups in every corner. They said that Rienzi's trial was to be today, and from the names of the judges chosen, it is suspected that acquittal is already determined on."
"Ha! thou shouldst have told me of this before."
"Should he be restored to Rome, would it militate against thy plans?"
"Humph! I know not - deep thought and dexterous management would be needed. I would fain not leave this spot till I hear what is decided on."
"Surely, Walter, it would have been wiser and safer to have stayed with thy soldiery, and intrusted me with the absolute conduct of this affair."
"Not so," answered Montreal; "thou art a bold fellow enough, and a cunning
"Half now - half when thy troops are before Rimini!"
"Rimini! the thought whets my sword. Rememberest thou how that accursed Malatesta drove me from Aversa, (This Malatesta, a signior of illustrious family, was one of the most skilful warriors in Italy. He and his brother Galeotto had been raised to the joint-tyranny of Rimini by the voice of its citizens. After being long the foes of the Church, they were ultimately named as its captains by the Cardinal Albornoz.) broke up my camp, and made me render to him all my booty? There fell the work of years! But for that, my banner now would be floating over St. Angelo. I will pay back the debt with fire and sword, ere the summer has shed its leaves."
The fair countenance of Montreal grew terrible as he uttered these words; his hands griped the handle of his sword, and his strong frame heaved visibly; tokens of the fierce and unsparing passions, by the aid of which a life of rapine and revenge had corrupted a nature originally full no less of the mercy than the courage of Provencal chivalry.
Such was the fearful man who now (the wildness of his youth sobered, and his ambition hardened and concentered) was the rival with Rienzi for the mastery of Rome.
Chapter 7.VIII. The Crowd. - The Trial. - The Verdict. - The Soldier and the Page.
It was on the following evening that a considerable crowd had gathered in the streets of Avignon. It was the second day of the examination of Rienzi, and with every moment was expected the announcement of the verdict. Amongst the foreigners of all countries assembled in that seat of the Papal splendour, the interest was intense. The Italians, even of the highest rank, were in favour of the Tribune, the French against him. As for the good townspeople of Avignon themselves, they felt but little excitement in any thing that did not bring money into their pockets; and if it had been put to the secret vote, no doubt there would have been a vast majority for burning the prisoner, as a marketable speculation!
Amongst the crowd was a tall man in a plain and rusty suit of armour, but with an air of knightly bearing, which somewhat belied the coarseness of his mail; he wore no helmet, but a small morion of black leather, with a long projecting shade, much used by wayfarers in the hot climates of the south. A black patch covered nearly the whole of one cheek, and altogether he bore the appearance of a grim soldier, with whom war had dealt harshly, both in purse and person.
Many were the jests at the shabby swordsman's expense, with which that lively population amused their impatience; and though the shade of the morion concealed his eyes, an arch and merry smile about the corners of his mouth shewed that he could take a jest at himself.
"Well," said one of the crowd, (a rich Milanese,) "I am of a state that was free, and I trust the People's man will have justice shewn him."
"Amen," said a grave Florentine.
"They say," whispered a young student from Paris, to a learned doctor of laws, with whom he abode, "that his defence has been a masterpiece."
"He hath taken no degrees," replied the doctor, doubtingly. "Ho, friend, why dost thou push me so? thou hast rent my robe."
This was said to a minstrel, or jongleur, who, with a small lute slung round him, was making his way, with great earnestness, through the throng.
"I beg pardon, worthy sir," said the minstrel; "but this is a scene to be sung of! Centuries hence; ay, and in lands remote, legend and song will tell the fortunes of Cola di Rienzi, the friend of Petrarch and the Tribune of Rome!"
The young French student turned quickly round to the minstrel, with a glow on his pale face; not sharing the general sentiments of his countrymen against Rienzi, he felt that it was an era in the world when a minstrel spoke thus of the heroes of intellect - not of war.
At this time the tall soldier was tapped impatiently on the back.
"I pray thee, great sir," said a sharp and imperious voice, "to withdraw that tall bulk of thine a little on one side - I cannot see through thee; and I would fain my eyes were among the first to catch a glimpse of Rienzi as he passes from the court."
"Fair sir page," replied the soldier, good-humouredly, as he made way for Angelo Villani, "thou wilt not always find that way in the world is won by commanding the strong. When thou art older thou wilt beard the weak, and the strong thou wilt wheedle."
"I must change my nature, then," answered Angelo, (who was of somewhat small stature, and not yet come to his full growth,) trying still to raise himself above the heads of the crowd.
The soldier looked at him approvingly; and as he looked he sighed, and his lips worked with some strange emotion.
"Thou speakest well," said he, after a pause. "Pardon me the rudeness of the question; but art thou of Italy? - thy tongue savours of the Roman dialect; yet I have seen lineaments like thine on this side the Alps."
"It may be, good fellow," said the page, haughtily; "but I thank Heaven that I am of Rome."
At this moment a loud shout burst from that part of the crowd nearest the court. The sound of trumpets again hushed the throng into deep and breathless silence, while the Pope's guards, ranged along the space conducting from the court, drew themselves up more erect, and fell a step or two back upon the crowd.
As the trumpet ceased, the voice of a herald was heard, but it did not penetrate within several yards of the spot where Angelo and the soldier stood; and it was only by a mighty shout that in a moment circled through, and was echoed back by, the wide multitude - by the waving of kerchiefs from the windows - by broken ejaculations, which were caught up from lip to lip, that the page knew that Rienzi was acquitted.
"I would I could see his face!" sighed the page, querulously.
"And thou shalt," said the soldier; and he caught up the boy in his arms, and pressed on with the strength of a giant, parting the living stream from right to left, as he took his way to a place near the guards, and by which Rienzi was sure to pass.
The page, half-pleased, half-indignant, struggled a little, but finding it in vain, consented tacitly to what he felt an outrage on his dignity.
"Never mind," said the soldier, "thou art the first I ever willingly raised above myself; and I do it now for the sake of thy fair face, which reminds me of one I loved."
But these last words were spoken low, and the boy, in his anxiety to see the hero of Rome, did not hear or heed them. Presently Rienzi came by; two gentlemen, of the Pope's own following, walked by his side. He moved slowly, amidst the greetings and clamour of the crowd, looking neither to the right nor left. His bearing was firm and collected, and, save by the flush of his cheek, there was no external sign of joy or excitement. Flowers dropped from every balcony on his path; and just when he came to a broader space, where the ground was somewhat higher, and where he was in fuller view of the houses around, he paused - and, uncovering, acknowledged the homage he had received, with a look - a gesture - which each who beheld never forgot. It haunted even that gay and thoughtless court, when the last tale of Rienzi's life reached their ears. And Angelo, clinging then round that soldier's neck, recalled - but we must not anticipate.
It was not, however, to the dark tower that Rienzi returned. His home was prepared at the palace of the Cardinal d'Albornoz. The next day he was admitted to the Pope's presence, and on the evening of that day he was proclaimed Senator of Rome.
Meanwhile the soldier had placed Angelo on the ground; and as the page faltered out no courteous thanks, he interrupted him in a sad and kind voice, the tone of which struck the page forcibly, so little did it suit the rough and homely appearance of the man.
"We part," he said, "as strangers, fair boy; and since thou sayest thou art of Rome, there is no reason why my heart should have warmed to thee as it has done; yet if ever thou wantest a friend, - seek him" - and the soldier's voice sunk into a whisper - "in Walter de Montreal."
Ere the page recovered his surprise at that redoubted name, which his earliest childhood had been taught to dread, the Knight of St. John had vanished amongst the crowd.
Chapter 7.IX. Albornoz and Nina.
But the eyes which, above all others, thirsted for a glimpse of the released captive were forbidden that delight. Alone in her chamber, Nina awaited the result of the trial. She heard the shouts, the exclamations, the tramp of thousands along the street; she felt that the victory was won; and, her heart long overcharged, she burst into passionate tears. The return of Angelo soon acquainted her with all that had passed; but it somewhat chilled her joy to find Rienzi was the guest of the dreaded Cardinal. That shock, in which certainty, however happy, replaces suspense, had so powerful an effect on her frame, joined to her loathing fear of a visit from the Cardinal, that she became for three days alarmingly ill; and it was only on the fifth day from that which saw Rienzi endowed with the rank of Senator of Rome, that she was recovered sufficiently to admit Albornoz to her presence.
The Cardinal had sent daily to inquire after her health, and his inquiries, to her alarmed mind, had appeared to insinuate a pretension to the right to make them. Meanwhile Albornoz had had enough to divert and occupy his thoughts. Having bought off the formidable Montreal from the service of John de Vico, one of the ablest and fiercest enemies of the Church, he resolved to march to the territories of that tyrant as expeditiously as possible, and so not to allow him time to obtain the assistance of any other band of the mercenary adventurers, who found Italy the market for their valour. Occupied with raising troops, procuring money, corresponding with the various free states, and establishing alliances in aid of his ulterior and more ambitious projects at the court of Avignon, the Cardinal waited with tolerable resignation the time when he might claim from the Signora Cesarini the reward to which he deemed himself entitled. Meanwhile he had held his first conversations with Rienzi, and, under the semblance of courtesy to the acquitted Tribune, Albornoz had received him as his guest, in order to make himself master of the character and disposition of one in whom he sought a minister and a tool. That miraculous and magic art, attested by the historians of the time, which Rienzi possessed over every one with whom he came into contact, however various in temper, station, or opinions, had not deserted him in his interview with the Pontiff. So faithfully had he described the true condition of Rome, so logically had he traced the causes and the remedies of the evils she endured, so sanguinely had he spoken of his own capacities for administering her affairs, and so brilliantly had he painted the prospects which that administration opened to the weal of the Church, and the interests of the Pope, that Innocent, though a keen and shrewd, and somewhat sceptical calculator of human chances, was entirely fascinated by the eloquence of the Roman.
"Is this the man," he is reported to have said, "whom for twelve months we have treated as a prisoner and a criminal? Would that it were on his shoulders only that the Christian empire reposed!"
At the close of the interview he had, with every mark of favour and distinction, conferred upon Rienzi the rank of Senator, which, in fact, was that of Viceroy of Rome, and had willingly acceded to all the projects which the enterprising Rienzi had once more formed - not only for recovering the territories of the Church, but for extending the dictatorial sway of the Seven-hilled City, over the old dependencies of Italy.
Albornoz, to whom the Pope retailed this conversation, was somewhat jealous of the favour the new Senator had so suddenly acquired, and immediately on his return home sought an interview with his guest. In his heart, the Lord Cardinal, emphatically a man of action and business, regarded Rienzi as one rather cunning than wise - rather fortunate than great - a mixture of the pedant and the demagogue. But after a long and scrutinizing conversation with the new Senator, even he yielded to the spell of his enchanting and master intellect. Reluctantly Albornoz confessed to himself that Rienzi's rise was not the thing of chance; yet more reluctantly he perceived that the Senator was one whom he might treat with as an equal, but could not rule as a minion. And he entertained serious doubts whether it would be wise to reinstate him in a power which he evinced the capacity to wield and the genius to extend. Still, however, he did not repent the share he had taken in Rienzi's acquittal. His presence in a camp so thinly peopled was a matter greatly to be desired. And through his influence, the Cardinal more than ever trusted to enlist the Romans in favour of his enterprise for the recovery of the territory of St. Peter!
Rienzi, who panted once more to behold his Nina, endeared to him by trial and absence, as by fresh bridals, was not however able to discover the name she had assumed at Avignon; and his residence with the Cardinal closely but respectfully watched as he was, forbade Nina all opportunity of corresponding with him. Some half bantering hints which Albornoz had dropped upon the interest taken in his welfare by the most celebrated beauty of Avignon, had filled him with a vague alarm which he trembled to acknowledge even to himself. But the volto sciolto (Volto sciolto, pensieri stretti - the countenance open, the thoughts restrained.) which, in common with all Italian politicians, concealed whatever were his pensieri stretti - enabled him to baffle completely the jealous and lynxlike observation of the Cardinal. Nor had Alvarez been better enabled to satisfy the curiosity of his master. He had indeed sought the page Villani, but the imperious manner of that wayward and haughty boy had cut short all attempts at cross-examination. And all he could ascertain was, that the real Angelo Villani was not the Angelo Villani who had visited Rienzi.
Trusting at last that he should learn all, and inflamed by such passion and such hope as he was capable of feeling, Albornoz now took his way to the Cesarini's palace.
He was ushered with due state into the apartment of the Signora. He found her pale, and with the traces of illness upon her noble and statuelike features. She rose as he entered; and when he approached, she half bent her knee, and raised his hand to her lips. Surprised and delighted at a reception so new, the Cardinal hastened to prevent the condescension; retaining both her hands, he attempted gently to draw them to his heart.
"Fairest!" he whispered, "couldst thou know hear I have mourned thy illness
Nina, releasing her hand, waved it gently, and motioned the Cardinal to a seat. Seating herself at a little distance, she then spoke with great gravity and downcast eyes.
"My Lord, it is your intercession, joined to his own innocence, that has released from yonder tower the elected governor of the people of Rome. But freedom is the least of the generous gifts you have conferred; there is a greater in a fair name vindicated, and rightful honours re-bestowed. For this, I rest ever your debtor; for this, if I bear children, they shall be taught to bless your name; for this the historian who recalls the deeds of this age, and the fortunes of Cola di Rienzi, shall add a new chaplet to the wreaths you have already won. Lord Cardinal, I may have erred. I may have offended you - you may accuse me of woman's artifice. Speak not, wonder not, hear me out. I have but one excuse, when I say that I held justified any means short of dishonour, to save the life and restore the fortunes of Cola di Rienzi. Know, my Lord, that she who now addresses you is his wife."
The Cardinal remained motionless and silent. But his sallow countenance grew flushed from the brow to the neck, and his thin lips quivered for a moment, and then broke into a withering and bitter smile. At length he rose from his seat, very slowly, and said, in a voice trembling with passion,
"It is well, madam. Giles d'Albornoz has been, then, a puppet in the hands, a stepping-stone in the rise, of the plebeian demagogue of Rome. You but played upon me for your own purposes; and nothing short of a Cardinal of Spain, and a Prince of the royal blood of Aragon, was meet to be the instrument of a mountebank's juggle! Madam, yourself and your husband might justly be accused of ambition - "
"Cease, my Lord," said Nina, with unspeakable dignity; "whatever offence has been committed against you was mine alone. Till after our last interview, Rienzi knew not even of my presence at Avignon."
"At our last interview, Lady, (you do well to recall it!) methinks there was a hinted and implied contract. I have fulfilled my part - I claim yours. Mark me! I do not forego that claim. As easily as I rend this glove can I rend the parchment which proclaims thy husband 'the Senator of Rome.' The dungeon is not death, and its door will open twice."
"My Lord - my Lord!" cried Nina, sick with terror, "wrong not so your noble nature, your great name, your sacred rank, your chivalric blood. You are of the knightly race of Spain, yours not the sullen, low, and inexorable vices that stain the petty tyrants of this unhappy land. You are no Visconti - no Castracani - you cannot stain your laurels with revenge upon a woman. Hear me," she continued, and she fell abruptly at his feet; "men dupe, deceive our sex - and for selfish purposes; they are pardoned - even by their victims. Did I deceive you with a false hope? Well - what my object? - what my excuse? My husband's liberty - my land's salvation! Woman, - my Lord, alas, your sex too rarely understand her weakness or her greatness! Erring - all human as she is to others - God gifts her with a thousand virtues to the one she loves! It is from that love that she alone drinks her nobler nature. For the hero of her worship she has the meekness of the dove - the devotion of the saint; for his safety in peril, for his rescue in misfortune, her vain sense imbibes the sagacity of the serpent - her weak heart, the courage of the lioness! It is this which, in absence, made me mask my face in smiles, that the friends of the houseless exile might not despair of his fate - it is this which brought me through forests beset with robbers, to watch the stars upon yon solitary tower - it was this which led my steps to the revels of your hated court - this which made me seek a deliverer in the noblest of its chiefs - it is this which has at last opened the dungeon door to the prisoner now within your halls; and this, Lord Cardinal," added Nina, rising, and folding her arms upon her heart - "this, if your anger seeks a victim, will inspire me to die without a groan, - but without dishonour!"
Albornoz remained rooted to the ground. Amazement - emotion - admiration - all busy at his heart. He gazed at Nina's flashing eyes and heaving bosom as a warrior of old upon a prophetess inspired. His eyes were riveted to hers as by a spell. He tried to speak, but his voice failed him. Nina continued:
"Yes, my Lord; these are no idle words! If you seek revenge, it is in your power. Undo what you have done. Give Rienzi back to the dungeon, or to disgrace, and you are avenged; but not on him. All the hearts of Italy shall become to him a second Nina! I am the guilty one, and I the sufferer. Hear me swear - in that instant which sees new wrong to Rienzi, this hand is my executioner. - My Lord, I supplicate you no longer!"
Albornoz continued deeply moved. Nina but rightly judged him, when she distinguished the aspiring Spaniard from the barbarous and unrelenting voluptuaries of Italy. Despite the profligacy that stained his sacred robe
The Spaniard was gone before Nina could reply.